England's New Breed Show the World Cup Hasn't Been a Total Disaster

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14: Daniel Sturridge of England (C) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Wayne Rooney (L), Raheem Sterling (2nd L), Jordan Henderson (2nd R) and Danny Welbeck (R) during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Failure comes in many forms—its dictionary definition offering the simplest interpretation as being a lack of success.

But then how do we measure success? Under the ruthless gaze of a global audience at a World Cup, it ultimately comes down to winning and losing. Winners succeed, losers fail.

England's Brazil 2014 campaign is a little more complex than that, however.

Even before Roy Hodgson's squad was selected, let alone boarded the plane to South America, they were written off. Drawn in a group containing the talents of Italy and Uruguay, England were never expected to qualify for the last 16. And they didn't.

Tradition suggests it shouldn't be the case—England have long been a power in the global game, after all. But times change, teams improve and some fall behind. We need only look at Spain at this World Cup for proof of that theory.

England failed to qualify for the European Championships in 2008 before being humbled by Germany in 2010. A weak showing at Euro 2012 followed, highlighting the simple fact they have been in decline for some time themselves.

Things needed to change in order to redirect the path English football was travelling, and by picking a squad full of vibrant, young talent for the World Cup, Hodgson has started that process.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Glen Johnson of England and Daniel Sturridge celebrate after scoring the first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by W
Warren Little/Getty Images

Results in Brazil may not necessarily show it to be the case, but England's performances this summer suggest otherwise.

They haven't been enough to win games, sure, but with youth forming the nucleus, there is suddenly a renewed vigour about the team.

An emphasis on attack has seen exciting performances that are at odds from what we have grown accustomed to seeing in tournaments past from England, and as this team develops, it's what we can expect more of.

England are fun to watch again.

Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

There are areas to address, notably in defence where Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill's partnership requires attention—perhaps with the former becoming a high-profile casualty of further changes that are needed—but the positives are far more reaching.

Against Italy and Uruguay, England's four attacking players, for instance—Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney—had an average age of just 23.5.

Their like-for-like replacements in the squad were Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rickie Lambert, Jack Wilshere and James Milner—all players, save for Lambert, either 28 or under.

England were also forced to leave Andros Townsend and Theo Walcott at home due to injury.

Disappointment in South Africa four years ago was difficult to stomach for many England supporters, as it was the end of the line for the so-called Golden Generation.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

And as one era came to an end, there weren't many options beyond it.

This World Cup has been the death knell for Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, the remaining remnants of that team from which so much was expected.

Both players perhaps know their time in international football is up, yet, in 2014, England have more options for the future than they have arguably ever had.

A new team has been born.

With Sterling, Sturridge, Oxlade-Chamberlain and the rest, England have a squad capable of competing at the highest level for the next decade and even more.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

These are players with pace, they're skilful, athletic and, above all else, they now have experience of playing tournament football—all attributes vital in the modern era.

They are becoming stars for their club teams, and, in time, will be stars for their country.

Beyond them, there's even more talent to consider.

Chelsea won the 2013-14 FA Youth Cup with an exciting team containing nine Englishmen in their starting line-up for the final—many of whom already represent their country at youth level.

Of those, the prolific striker Dominic Solanke and equally gifted midfielder Charlie Colkett are grabbing attention, but Chelsea are just one club. There are many more talented Englishmen in academies across the country—players who helped England's under-17s to victory at this summer's European Championship.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05: Dominic Solanke of Chelsea breaks away from Fulham's Cameron Burgess during the FA Youth Cup Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on May 05, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Get
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Being knocked out of a World Cup is always a bitter pill to swallow, regardless of a team's ability. When it's England, the pressure and expectation that follows the Three Lions wherever they travel only adds to the furore.

Disappointed? England fans should be with Brazil 2014 but distraught? It's too short-termist.

There needs to be a sense of perspective, and we've seen enough in South America this summer to suggest the future is brighter than many would have us think.

In 1990 and 1994, France didn't qualify for the World Cup. In 1992 they were eliminated from the European Championships in the group stage.

Four years later, Les Bleus reached the semi-final of Euro '96 and followed it up by winning the 1998 World Cup on home soil with a team containing a young Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira among others.

From tragedy came success. It certainly gives us food for thought where England are concerned.


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